From the Rector's Desk:
Whoever is first...
The painting of The Last Supper by Duccio (1308-1311) shows, like the famous depiction by Leonardo di Vinci, Christ seated at the center of the table, yet many historical authors describe a typical first century meal differently.
Unlike our present-day western tables, Jesus and his disciples would have gathered at a low table and reclined around it on pillows or cushions. The common practice was to lean on one's left side, head toward the table and feet stretched out behind. The table may have been long and oval or shaped like a "U," but in either case guests would be arranged so as to leave space for serving dishes to be brought to the open end of the table.
Jesus, as host of the meal would have been seated on the second cushion at the left side. Following the description in the Gospel of John, it seems that the seating arrangement places John to Jesus' right and, very possibly, Judas on his left in the seat known as the place of honor, next to the host. One author points out that Jesus, far from rejecting Judas, was reaching out to him even to the end.
One of the most painful moments of the evening comes when the disciples argue about who among them was the greatest (Luke 22:24-27). Whether brought on by the seating arrangement, or Jesus' announcement that one them would betray him, the disciples are astonishingly unaware of the gravity of the meal and their own clamor for superiority. And, this after Jesus had washed their feet at the beginning of the meal (John 13:1-17).
How amazing is the grace of Jesus! He welcomes sinners, the arrogant, and even those who turn against him to the table with him. Even though every one of these disciples would flee, yet he carries on with this meal which illustrates his self-sacrifice and saving intent. The true meal is about to be prepared and served.
Gracious Savior, thank you for allowing us to come to your table, eat of your sacrifice, and know your heart.
God bless you as you walk this Holy Week journey.
(Feb 25, 2020)
Lent is the season of the church year which precedes Easter. Most people think of Lent only as a time when we give up chocolate, but that is not really the case. Let me explain.
First and foremost, Lent calls us to draw near to God to prepare our hearts for the Easter celebration. Throughout Scripture, one of the ways that men and women earnestly sought the Lord was to fast (i.e. give up eating and/or drinking certain things for a time). Fasting does not "earn extra points" from God, rather it is a form of denying ourselves in order to draw near to God.
I encourage other forms of helpful fasting: fasting from screen time, whether our phone, TV, computer, or tablet. Another is to fast from thinking or speaking in critical ways of others.
The question to ask is: what would enable me to give my attention more fully to the Lord?
Lent lasts 40 days and falls between Ash Wednesday and Easter. The actual count of days in this period is 46, because Sundays are considered mini-Resurrection days and so are feast days.
There is more to Lent than fasting, but I will write further on other topics.
God bless you,
New Year 2020
(Jan 1, 2020)
It's easy to see how 20-20 vision and the new year 2020 echo each other. What is not so easy to see is what the Lord is doing at this time in history or in our own lives.
The Rev. George Matheson (1842-1906), Scottish minister, penned the well-loved hymn, "O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go" on the evening of his eldest sister's wedding. But there is more to the story. George displayed strong academic ability, finishing first in classics, logic, and philosophy from University of Glasgow. This was all the more remarkable because he was going blind. By age 20, he could see only shadows and light. He nevertheless continued his preparation for the ministry and became known as "the blind preacher."
His loss of sight made him heavily dependent on others, especially his eldest sister. Now with her marriage, his sense of aloneness keen. The wedding also reawakened an old pang: the memory of his fiancée breaking their engagement due to his growing blindness. It was indeed a dark night of the heart.
Yet, as has often happened, the grace of God birthed through this suffering a great and deep beauty. In the space of five minutes' time, he wrote the words to "O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go."
O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
O Light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to Thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in Thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.
O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to Thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.
O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from Thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.
In these times and in our lives, darknesses may frustrate and confuse us. Doesn't God know? Can't he see? Why doesn't he do something? Yet there, surprisingly, is the One who never leaves or forsakes his own. He was there all along for he cannot let us go.
May Christ who is Light lead and guide us all in the new year.
In Christ who is our hope,
(May 29, 2019)
This more contemporary depiction of The Ascension captures the account given in Acts:
"as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven." (Acts 1:9-11 ESV)
The disciples are stunned at what they are seeing and hearing. Just before these words, Jesus has given them the command to take the Gospel into all the world. And now they are watching him leave. This doesn't seem right.
But there is a Scene II to this drama: the Holy Spirit will come.
So often in our life in Christ, he calls us to something far beyond our abilities, then, just as when it seems that he is absent, the Lord by his Spirit shows up in a remarkable way.
Christ is ascended, but he is not inattentive. He is at work in and through his people to bring about his good will and pleasure by the power of the Holy Spirit.
As Jesus said, "it is a good thing that I go away...", because the Holy Spirit came to carry out the work of God through the people of God. Alleluia!
God bless you as you rejoice in the Ascended Christ tomorrow.
"Come On In, The Fire's Fine!"
A Call to Deeper Discipleship and Contagious Faith
If we look seriously at the Scriptures, and if we're honest, we hear a lot of awfully challenging things! We're tempted, like Jesus' disciples, to turn away to an easier path. But like his first disciples, we find that no one else has "words of eternal life."
People's last words often summarize what they most earnestly desire. Jesus' final instructions to his disciples add to the challenges of following him: Go make more disciples! This makes most of us squirm.
Begun as lessons learned in facing the daunting task of inspiring her own children's faith, the principles Marcia Lebhar will share apply to disciples at every stage of life. Come join us for a day of encouragement... encouragement to persevere and go deeper in our own relationships with God, and a look at some ways our faith can become contagious.